The Calgary Flames will call out two draft selections in the fourth round of the 2018 NHL Draft, their first picks of the weekend. Despite the lack of picks, there are some pretty interesting and potentially strong players likely still in the mix when they select at 105th and 108th overall. If they decide to add to their defensive depth, Ottawa 67’s blueliner Merrick Rippon may be right up their alley.
A product of Ottawa, Rippon is a 6’0″, 185 pound left-shot defenseman. He just turned 18, being an April 2000 birthday.
A standout in bantam, midget and junior A, Rippon was a big part of championship squads in minor bantam and bantam and was also named his league’s top defenseman in midget. A second round selection of the Kitchener Rangers in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection, he seemed destined for the NCAA’s Providence College and so he stayed in junior A and was an all-star and rookie of the year with the Ottawa Jr. Senators.
But Rippon had a change of heart and indicated he’d be willing to play in Mississauga, leading to a trade that saw him head to the Steelheads in exchange for three draft picks.
In his rookie season in the Ontario Hockey League, Rippon was rock solid and played consistently throughout the season. He had 12 points in 37 games with Mississauga before a mid-season trade sent him to Ottawa – he was the key piece in a seven asset deal that saw the Steelheads land three picks and a veteran forward. Once he settled in with his hometown 67’s, he had 11 points in 31 games.
Our pal Brock Otten at OHL Prospects published his assessment of Rippon earlier this spring:
Similar kind of player to Vallati, at least in terms of projectability and that’s why they’re back to back on this list. Vallati is the better skater, but Rippon is the more physical player. That’s definitely a major strength of Rippon’s. This guy hits hard. Routinely catches opposing forwards cutting across the blueline and loves finishing his checks when opponents try to get through him off the rush. He’ll angle you off and put you through the boards. His mobility is definitely solid too, at least in terms of lateral and backwards agility. His forward stride may not be as powerful and may limit his offensive potential. But defensively, this guy could be a rock. Really felt like his decision making with the puck improved over the course of the season; turnovers in the defensive end became less and less of an issue. I don’t really think he’ll ever be a huge contributor offensively, but his work in his own end will be very valuable potentially.
Bless his heart, he’s also good for a minor penalty fairly consistently; he had 72 PIMs in 68 games as a rookie.
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Rippon was fourth in points among draft eligible OHL defensemen. He was fifth in five-on-five scoring in the same group. He’s not in the same ballpark offensively as prospective first rounders like Evan Bouchard or Ryan Merkley, but he’s comparable with mid-rounders like Rasmus Sandin and Alec Regula.
Fit and availability
The Flames have a ton of high-end defensive prospects but depending what they do this summer they could . be moved – either to the NHL or to other teams – and it makes sense for them to add some depth to their group. Even if the Flames don’t necessarily move anybody, Rippon’s skillset is complementary to some of the assets they already have in-house – particularly his physicality, if he can rein in his penalty-taking habits. If he can unlock his offensive side a bit at the OHL level, there’s some value here.
The perception of limited offensive upside – or at least the lack of a track record of offensive success in the OHL – should keep him on the board until around when the Flames pick. He’s ranked 99th by Future Considerations, 194th by ISS Hockey, and is the 85th-ranked North American skater by Central Scouting.
2018 fourth round targets
Merrick Rippon | Riley Stotts
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